Column by Grantham MP Nick Boles: Let us do what we can to promote religious freedom and respect
Parents will be hugging their children more tightly this Christmas.
Following the brutal slaughter of 132 Pakistani children by Taliban terrorists, bleak feelings about our fellow man are impossible to avoid.
How can human beings sink so low? How can people persuade themselves that God would ever welcome the wanton destruction of innocent young lives?
But in the aftermath of such horror we should give thanks for the strength and resilience of religious freedom in the UK.
This week my partner and I are holding an annual Chrismukah party for my family: it’s a tradition we have borrowed from the United States where lots of people want to combine the celebration of the birth of Christ with Hanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.
Throughout the country there will be millions of people who do not share the Christian faith honouring the traditions of Christmas and taking the opportunity to spend time with family and friends and exchange presents.
For long periods of its history Europe was disfigured by religious wars. Under successive kings and queens of what became the United Kingdom, Catholics murdered Protestants and Protestants murdered Catholics simply because of their religious beliefs.
Religious harmony is not something we should ever take for granted.
That this is now a country in which Christians live in peace alongside Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jews, not to mention people with no religious attachment, is an extraordinary achievement.
That they do not just live alongside each other but go to school together, play football together, marry each other and bring up children together is more remarkable still.
So as we pray for the families of the children murdered by the Taliban, and the thousands of Syrian and Iraqi civilians terrorised by ISIL, Al Qaeda and the Assad regime, let us pledge to do everything we can to sustain religious freedom and mutual respect here at home.
Happy Christmas to all of you. May the New Year bring joy and peace to you and all you love.